Nebraska’s StarTran Replaces Diesel With CNG

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Eleven new buses fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG) have begun service in Lincoln, Neb., for StarTran, the city’s bus service.

According to the mayor’s office, the new buses replaced 17-year-old diesel-fueled vehicles and offer the following benefits:

  • Lower operating costs with a more stable fuel supply and cost;
  • Improved mechanical reliability to improve on-time performance;
  • Upgraded seating for riders and operators;
  • Upgraded camera systems, including backup cameras; and
  • Touchscreen instrumentation and adjustable, automatic pedals for operators.

“Putting these buses on the street takes us significantly closer to the community’s goal of reducing the use of non-renewable fuels in city vehicles,” says Chris Beutler, mayor of Lincoln. “Clean, efficient CNG-fueled buses deliver the same number of people to their destinations with 20 percent less tailpipe greenhouse emissions.”

The recently adopted Lincoln Environmental Action Plan includes a goal to reduce non-renewable fuel usage in city fleet operations 50% by 2030. StarTran’s fleet includes 80 vehicles, and by 2019, half of the fleet will use alternative fuel or propulsion, according to the mayor’s office. This includes 37 CNG-fueled vehicles – 24 buses, 11 HandiVans and two trolleys – and four electric buses, scheduled to begin service in mid-2019.

“More riders are turning to StarTran because of its environmental benefits for our community, and we are moving closer to our goal of a 100 percent environmentally friendly system,” says Mike Davis, transit manager. “These buses promote cleaner air and deliver comfortable passenger seating and a quieter ride.”

The need to replace buses was identified in StarTran’s Transit Development Plan, which seeks to grow ridership and increase efficiency through route changes, additional service offerings and better amenities. About $3.4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) helped fund the replacement program.

“The partnerships that StarTran has been able to leverage to bring greater safety, reliability and efficiency for its riders and grow is a credit to the agency’s leadership,” notes Cathy Monroe, planning director for FTA Region 7.

StarTran serves an average of 2.5 million riders annually. Since routes were updated in 2017, ridership has grown about 5% over the past 18 months, according to the mayor’s office.

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